Told you so!

I TAKE no pleasure in the fact that my prediction of a few weeks ago seems to have come true: Luis Suarez’s theatrical antics have almost certainly cost Liverpool dear. I refer to Suarez’s reaction to being fouled by Samuel Eto’o in the penalty box, during Chelsea’s 2-1 win on Sunday. There is no doubt in my mind that Liverpool should have had a penalty, but, as Suarez went into orbit after being taken out by Eto’o, I’m sure referee Howard Webb was thinking: ‘I’m not falling for that!’ Suarez did something similar, a bit of a dying swan act, when clattered by Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott in the 2-1 defeat at The Etihad last week. That was on the edge of the box, but it is arguable that a penalty might well have been awarded had it not been for Suarez’s melodramatic reaction. After yesterday’s match at Stamford Bridge, Blues boss Jose Mourinho said Suarez “did an acrobatic swimming pool jump.” And Mourinho insisted this type of thing has no place in English football  (though I must say Chelsea’s Eden Hazard did a pretty good similar impersonation at one point).

The fact is, Suarez is such a good player – as good as anyone in the world right now – that there’s just no need for this sort of thing. And, though I hate to say to Liverpool fans that I told you so, my forecast of a referee-rebound blow in a big, big match has come to pass. I am not condoning the fact that World Cup final official Webb got it wrong, just highlighting a situation where a player’s reputation for diving can precede him – and be so costly to his team when an important, split-second decision is made. This isn’t sour grapes on my part, you Reds fans, it is merely an underscoring of my warning of the potential repercussions of Suarez’s blatant attempts to influence the referee. It must be said, for a player blessed with such sublime balance, he does seem to lose it easily when someone gets near him, particularly in the penalty area. Manager Brendan Rodgers has been singing the praises of his reformed striker, following the biting incident late last season, then Suarez’s undignified bid to engineer a move from Anfield in the summer, and Liverpool have been so delighted with the Uruguayan’s form that they have signed him to a record, four-year contract extension. All I’ll say is, if Brendan can convince his star man to stamp out the play-acting, then Liverpool and their fans really will have the 100 per cent real deal to savour through to 2018.

 

Man up, Luis!

LIVERPOOL produced the most free-flowing display I can remember from them for many, many years with the Luis Suarez-inspired 5-0 destruction of Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The performance of Suarez was awesome, scoring goals, making goals and working hard for the team. His dribbling skills put him right up there with Messi and Ronaldo. Now for the negative side of his game! I know Liverpool fans will again accuse me of being blue-eyed when I express my exasperation at Suarez’s antics when he was fouled by Tottenham midfielder Paulinho, who caught him in the chest with his boot. Well, I am not biased against Suarez because he plays in the red of Liverpool, in fact I marvel at the manner in which he is tearing defences apart. But that does not prevent me from being dismayed at the way he rolled across the turf as if he’d been shot. If the referee was in any doubt as to whether it was a yellow or a red card offence, two theatrical rolls and a fist pounding the turf were designed to influence him towards the latter.

Look, it was a high boot and I’m sure it hurt. But, come on, Luis, man up! At one point, I was looking for the sniper in the crowd. Just as at Everton the other week, when he was caught high by Kevin Mirallas and rolled around as if in agony, Suarez was racing around the pitch like a spring chicken within a couple of minutes. It wasn’t so much a recovery as a resurrection. All I’m saying is that if Suarez would cut out the melodrama he would remove the only stain on an otherwise impeccable footballing persona.

Certainly, he and his team-mates have put themselves right in the frame for the fight for the Premier League title – and put Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas in big trouble in the process. When the Sky cameras focused on the unsmiling chief executive Daniel Levy the image spoke volumes for the predicament of Villas-Boas, who does not seem to know how to integrate the £100m-worth of players bought last summer. It seems to me Spurs had a better Champions League look about them two years ago! Since then, they have lost Luka Modric and Gareth Bale and none of the new signings look close to filling the gaps.

IT was a big weekend for the Manchester and Merseyside clubs, the four of them totalling 18 goals, with rampant Manchester City leading the way with their 6-3 demolition of leaders Arsenal. City in that form, with Silva, Toure, Aguero and Negredo sweeping forward, are virtually unstoppable. Arsenal’s £40m Mesut Ozil was overshadowed by the City midfielders in what was a wonderful advert for the Premier League. I still worry about City, defensively, with De Michelis unconvincing alongside Kompany. However, whereas Arsenal scored three and could have had six, City scored six and could have had 10. Everton were not at their best when putting four past Fulham, but that in itself is a good omen for them. When you win comfortably in those circumstances it has to be a positive sign. Young right-back Seamus Coleman provided further evidence that he is emerging as one of the best in his position in the top flight. A welcome return to winning ways for Manchester United, whose 3-0 at Villa highlighted the defensive problems that are hampering Paul Lambert’s team. Full-backs Luna and Lowton were run ragged, failing to stop crosses, and the fact that three of the back four were booked tells you the struggle they had trying to contain Wayne Rooney and Co. When Danny Welbeck scored, from a header by Januzaj, they were the only two United players in the box – where there were five Villa defenders. That also tells Lambert he has big problems. Great to see Darren Fletcher back for United after a year out in his ongoing battle with illness. In recent years, in all the big games, Fletcher was a must in Sir Alex Ferguson’s midfield, physically strong, good on the ball and blessed with huge reserves of stamina. Rumours were spreading that he might not play again, so it’s marvellous for him – and for manager David Moyes – that he is back in action.